Mid Devon needs to find around £20 million for relief road

Mid Devon will keep trying to secure the money needed to build a new relief road for Cullompton.

Simon Jupp (Exmouth’s temporary MP) claimed a couple of weeks ago in the commons:

Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset secured £152 million from the levelling-up fund last month. The four counties make up the region’s new powerhouse, the great south west, of which I chair the all-party parliamentary group. Will my right hon. Friend [Michael Gove] meet me to discuss the fantastic opportunities that lie ahead for the great south west? 

Michael Gove replied: I absolutely will, and I will make sure that the Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, my hon. Friend Dehenna Davison, is with me as well. There is nothing that the two of us enjoy more than hearing good news from fantastic constituency MPs such as my hon. Friend Simon Jupp.

So there you are Levelling Up in action – Owl

Council’s relief road efforts continue

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk 

The planned road to the east of the town is seen as essential for Cullompton, improving capacity at the town’s M5 junction, reducing traffic through the town centre and unlocking the development of 2,000 homes nearby.

It would also provide improved pedestrian and cycle access to the planned new Cullompton railway station, which could be in use by 2025.

But Mid Devon District Council is short of around £19 million of the road’s projected £30 million cost after being rejected again by the government’s flagship levelling-up scheme in January, despite backing from local Lib Dem MP Richard Foord and Conservative-controlled Devon County Council.

Originally set to cost £15 million, the road has ballooned in price; blamed on increased construction costs, replacing sporting facilities and the potential amount needed to buy land.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday [7 March], councillors agreed to submit a third bid to the levelling-up fund, if and when it is announced by Westminster, and to “continue to explore additional funding opportunities” to plug the shortfall.

Mid Devon’s new cabinet member for planning and economic regeneration, Councillor Graeme Barnell (Independent, Newbrooke) said he was “extremely disappointed” at the rejection and that it was “very important that officers do have a plan B and are working on that.”

Liberal Democrat councillor James Buczkowski (Cullompton South) stressed the importance of the road, saying it is “not only vital to the prosperity and wellbeing of Cullompton residents but vital, I believe, to the prosperity of the wider district too.

“The relief road is vital in terms of addressing the horrendous air quality in the town centre, addressing the outright dangerous transiting of heavy goods vehicles through our historical town centre, and addressing the daily congestion that has a severe detrimental impact on the lives of Cullompton residents.”

He added: “Please be assured that Cullompton residents have had enough of the daily plight and broken promises from Mid Devon District Council.”

Cllr Buczkowski urged councillors to explore other models of funding apart from the levelling-up fund, which a council officer said they are doing. Mr Buczkowski also suggested borrowing the money needed and paying it back in the long-term through developer housing contributions.

In response, Mid Devon’s director of place, Richard Marsh, claimed the council had been “working flat out” to try to make the road a reality.

He said it “wouldn’t be usual” for a district authority to borrow for a strategic highways project, while finance officer Andrew Jarrett added it was “not something we are looking to do or could do in the short to medium term” due to it putting a “very significant funding requirement” on the rest of the council.

Mr Marsh said it is planning policy that the relief road is in place before many new developments are built.

Cllr Barnell recommended a closer working with Devon County Council, which is responsible for highways and has pledged £1.5 towards the project.

The majority of cabinet members agreed to keep looking for more ways to fund the road, and to prepare another levelling-up bid.

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